Douglas Sanderson, Visual Artist, Painter
2012 LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT PRIZE FOR VISUAL ARTS
Leisurely strolls with his mother through the Cleveland Museum of Art gave Doug Sanderson his earliest exposure to art. When he was a little older, she enrolled him in Saturday classes at the Cleveland Institute of Art, but his preference then was for dreaming over drawing.
“Sometimes when I was supposed to be in class I’d cross the street and spend the two hours wandering around the museum by myself,” he recalls. “I would visit my two favorite paintings: La Vie, Picasso’s painting from his Blue Period, and Maine Coast, one of Rockwell Kent’s winter scenes.” He loved the Picasso for its complexity and Kent’s landscape for the way it “captured a sense of the cold, clear light.”
While Doug attended Charles F. Brush High School, a girl in an art class recognized his innate talent and encouraged him to join her in applying to the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. That appealed to him more than pursuing a career in business as others had suggested, so he applied.
He won a Carnegie Scholarship and enjoyed his undergraduate years exploring the foundations of painting and the great artists of the period, from Jasper Johns, Mark Rothko, and Robert Rauschenberg to Jackson Pollack, Willem de Kooning, and Ad Reinhardt. The latter two remain his favorites of the Abstract Expressionists.
After completing his BFA in 1964, he went on to earn an MFA at the University of Texas in Austin in 1966. Doug spent the next two decades establishing himself as one of the premier young artists in New York City. In the ‘70s he decided to break away from the work he found derivative of the artists who inspired him and began developing his own more minimal style. By the time he became known as one of the Monochrome Painters, however, he was already exploring a more complex and colorful style.
During that time, his work was shown at many of New York’s finest galleries, including the Clocktower, Droll/Kobert Gallery, John Weber Gallery, Paula Cooper Gallery, and Whitney Museum Resource Center, as well as galleries and museum collections across the country and in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Sweden. In 1981, he won a National Endowment for the Arts grant, and in 1990 he received a Pollock-Krasner Foundation grant.
Doug returned to Cleveland in the late ‘80s to spend time with his father, who was dying of cancer. In addition to spending as much time working in his studio as possible, he also accepted teaching positions at the Cleveland Institute of Art and Kent State University. While many of the painters he knew in New York were pressured by galleries and patrons to continue in the same styles they are known for, he has continually added and changed technique and imagery over the decades. “I have always wanted and managed an element of apprehension and change in my work by experimenting with different ways and means of representation,” he says.
This past year, Doug has focused on a series of projects which include the Flower of Life motif. It is considered by some to be a symbol of sacred geometry that contains ancient, religious value depicting the fundamental forms of space and time. “I like these symbols because of their esoteric, mysterious application,” he says.
“Doug’s mastery of color and abstraction is what appeals to me the most,” observes Paul O’Keefe, professor, School or Art, Kent State University, Kent, Ohio. “His abstraction operates not just on the purely formal, but it operates on a deeply emotional level, too.
Recently, Doug received his first-ever commission, when the Cleveland Clinic hired him to paint a series of six pieces that is now displayed at the Richard E. Jacobs Health Center in Avon, Ohio. You can also see images of Doug’s work on his website (www.douglasgsanderson.com) or at the William Busta Gallery in Cleveland, Ohio, which has represented his work for almost twenty years.
“The most fulfilling, gratifying experience,” he concludes, “is having people that I don’t know come up to me and say, ‘That painting you made is terrific.’”